Self-Esteem and The Gift of Challenging People: Part Six
In this post we will look at dealing with difficult people, the second chance, and communication. Please refer back to the earlier posts by the same name in parts one through five.
Dealing With Difficult People
If you have identified a difficult person in your life, it is time for you to apply your knowledge, empathy, and skill building where your own self-esteem is concerned. People with personality disorders are people. They may be difficult, but this is because they have a disorder.
Someone with cancer may be difficult, and someone with a broken leg may be as well. We don’t throw people away just because they are challenging.
As you begin this journey, understand that you will never be able to change another human being. You can only change yourself. You can help others with advice, support, and knowledge.
The first step in addressing your difficult person is to stand back and separate out your feelings from the person. Is your difficult person suffering? Would you want to go through life being trapped in the cognitions, behaviors, interpersonal functioning, and impulse-control issues that they face? Of course, your answer is no.
OK, now you can relax and take a look at the concept of empathy. What would it be like to walk in his shoes? Once you have some empathy toward another, you can then proceed to the step of emotional availability.
Emotional availability means you will need to talk to her. Let her know that the relationship is important to you and there are things that need to improve. You don’t want to play therapist; you simply want to let her know you are a person too. Let her know that you are suffering as a result of her attitudes, abuse, verbiage, or hostility. If she is not in therapy, make a suggestion.
If you hit a wall and she cannot hear you, then you can say you will need to be limiting your interaction or time with her. Be clear that you are doing this to take care of yourself, not as a punishment to her. Remember, stay out of outcome.
When we stay out of outcome, it means we are not doing something because of an end result. Rather, we are doing it because it is either the right thing to do or it is something we need to do. If your husband has a drinking problem and you want to stay out of outcome, you might say, “I am having trouble with your moods and the loss of income due to your being unable to go to work.” An outcome statement is, “If you don’t get help I am moving out.”
In the second example we show an outcome expectation, but not in the first example. In life, it behooves us to make statements of observations of our feelings without a condition being placed on the other. Conditions are outcomes. An outcome is an expectation of change as a result of an interaction or verbal exchange.
We have responsibility to communicate fairly, clearly, and in a non-hurtful manner. We don’t know what someone will do with what we offer. That is not our business, as long as we did our part with compassion.
Next, give her a chance to talk. Listen to her. It may be that she sees you as the difficult person in the relationship and that there has been a misunderstanding. Listening is sometimes the best way to assess a situation. We can always learn something by listening to another person. We don’t have to agree, but wisdom come from openness to the point of view of others.
When speaking with the person, try to leave your emotions out of the picture, as they will only cloud the issues and make it harder for you to do the work that needs to be done.
What About a Second Chance?
After you have utilized, to the best of your abilities, the exercise of empathy and emotional availability, you will have to make the decision whether to give the relationship another chance. That decision is yours alone. If the person does not want another chance, move on. If you do not want another chance, move on. However, if you and the other party are willing to work–and it is work–then there is the possibility that the relationship with this person can be salvaged.
Before you go down this road, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you truthfully see the relationship getting better?
- Why is the relationship worth saving?
- What does the relationship bring to your life?
- Can you honestly forgive the other person and move on?
- Will you always have lingering doubts about the other person?
- Can you ever trust the other person again?
- Do you foresee any future joy or happiness with the other person?
- Do all parties involved (direct and extended) support the attempted restoration?
If you have a positive feeling about these questions, it may be advantageous to move in the direction of restoration. As you move forward, the following suggestions can help you.
There are several methods to resolving conflict in relationships. The first step, of course, is to keep the lines of two-way communication open. This means that both parties will listen and speak. Few thing will be accomplished if this does not happen.
Why is listening so important? Listening is a basic survival skill for any animal, humans included. Recognizing the difference between listening and hearing is essential to positive relationships. Without the skill of purposeful listening, most communication is shattered.
Communication can be the single most important step in identifying difficult or challenging people, addressing challenging people, restoring and refining relationships that ere previously difficult, or eliminating difficult people from your life.
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
Next Blog is on Mediation and Dispute Resolution and Removing Difficult People from Your Life.
Portions of this blog are from The Everything Guide to Self-Esteem by Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo
Burton Mongelluzzo, N. (2012). Self-Esteem and The Gift of Challenging People: Part Six. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/angst-anxiety/2012/03/self-esteem-and-the-gift-of-challenging-people-part-six/